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Go with your gut, Alcoa style

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in Leaders & Managers

Too much analysis can lead to unethical decisions.

That’s the conclusion from the University of Toronto, which found that almost 70% of subjects who were encouraged to think rationally and ignore their emotions decided to cheat their partners.

On the other hand, those who relied on gut feelings were about 70% trustworthy.

When Paul O’Neill took the helm at Alcoa in 1987, he declared on his first day that no one should ever be hurt on the job. The acceptable accident rate now would be zero.

Alcoa already ranked in the top third for company safety. His peers thought O’Neill would have to back down. He never did. In fact, safety features didn’t even have to follow a budget.

Bottom line: Because of the chief’s gut feeling, Alcoa became one of the safest companies in the world.

— Adapted from “In Defense of Feelings,” Dan and Chip Heath, Fast Company.

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